Monday, April 6, 2009

Response to Good Friday Liturgy, "Pastoral Team"

Here are some nuggets from the Hierarchical Constitution of the Church (Canons 515 - 544). 

Canon 517, §1 - When circumstances require it, the pastoral care of a parish or of different parishes together can be entrusted to several priests in solidum, with the requirement, however, that in exercising pastoral care ONE OF THEM MUST BE THE MODERATOR, NAMELY, THE ONE WHO IS TO DIRECT THE JOINT ACTION AND ANSWER FOR IT TO THE BISHOP (emphasis mine).

Comments - in solidum is, I would assume, the juridical equivalent of "Pastoral Team"; however, is Fr. Tony Dummer clearly and explicitly the "moderator"? Do parishioners know this? Again, I would stress that you are within your rights as the "People of God" (Lumen Gentium terminology, the Constitution of the Church from Vatican II) to know these things. Remember, hierarchy - i.e. the Kingdom of God - entails looking into one's own soul and being held accountable for one's own actions not just by his fellow men, but by the light of reason and Eternal Truth; it forces an encounter with God.

Canon 519 - The pastor (parochus) is the proper pastor (pastor) of the parish entrusted to him, exercising the pastoral care of the community committed to him under the authority of the diocesan bishop in whose ministry of Christ he has been called to share, so that for that same community he carries out the functions of teaching, sanctifying, and governing, also with the cooperation of other presbyters or deacons and with the assistance of lay members of the Christian faithful, according to the norm of law.

Comments - This outlines the functions of the pastor. Nothing incendiary, but it's good to know.

Canon 526, §1 - A PASTOR IS TO HAVE THE PAROCHIAL CARE OF ONLY ONE PARISH (emphasis mine); nevertheless, because of a lack of priests or other circumstances, the care of several neighboring parishes can be entrusted to the same pastor.

Comments - With regard to the three largest parishes on the Western Kenai Peninsula - Our Lady of the Angels in Kenai, Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Soldotna, and St. John the Baptist in Homer - this Canon is being cheerily ignored; I would suppose that in solidum is the loophole that supposedly nullifies it. However, given the following Canons, it becomes clear why personal responsibility is inextricable with the life of a pastor and his parish.

Canon 526, §2 - In the same parish THERE IS TO BE ONLY ONE PASTOR OR MODERATOR in accord with the norm of can. 517, §1; ANY CONTRARY CUSTOM IS REPROBATED AND ANY CONTRARY PRIVILEGE WHATSOEVER IS REVOKED. (emphasis mine)

Comments - Very strong language with "ANY" - the reason is the Hierarchical Constitution of the Church. It is no coincidence that this entire part of Canon law is labeled as such! Canons 542-544 bolster the interpretation that the moderator is the de facto pastor with regards to juridical representation, possession of a parish, and personal accountability to the bishop.

Canon 528, §2 - The pastor is to see to it that the Most Holy Eucharist is the center of the parish assembly of the faithful. He is to work so that the Christian faithful are nourished through the devout celebration of the sacraments and, in a special way, that they frequently approach the sacraments of the Most Holy Eucharist and penance. He is also to endeavor that they are led to practice prayer even as families and take part consciously and actively in the sacred liturgy which, under the authority of the diocesan bishop, THE PASTOR MUST DIRECT IN HIS OWN PARISH AND IS BOUND TO WATCH OVER SO THAT NO ABUSES CREEP IN. (emphasis mine)

Comments - Seems to speak for itself. If the "moderator" of the parish is Fr. Tony, and his status as "moderator" is juridically equivalent to "pastor", then he's the one - not Fr. Andy or Sr. Joyce - that should be petitioned regarding this Good Friday abuse.

Canon 529, §1 - In order to fulfill his office diligently, a pastor is to strive to know the faithful entrusted to his care. Therefore he is to visit families, sharing especially in the cares, anxieties, and griefs of the faithful, strengthening them in the Lord, and prudently correcting them if they are failing in certain areas. With generous love he is to help the sick, particularly those close to death, by refreshing them solicitously with the sacraments and commending their souls to God; with particular diligence he is to seek out the poor, the afflicted, the lonely, those exiled from their country, and similarly those weighed down by special difficulties. He is to work so that spouses and parents are supported in fulfilling their proper duties and is to foster growth of Christian life in the family.

Comments - This is just sad. It seems to me that one of the joys of being a parish priest would be participating in the community life of a town, village, or city, and therefore being installed as a permanent fixture therein. Canon 522 implies as much, "A pastor must possess stability and therefore is to be appointed for an indefinite period of time". Having a rotating "Pastoral Team" - wherein no priest is at the same parish for more than 2 Sundays per month - is gravely opposed to Canon Law, common sense, and the Hierarchical Structure of the Church, not to mention the Word of God, "I am the good shepherd; I know my own and my own know me" (Jn 10:14). In more practical terms, it implies that the permanently fixed Parish Director/Associate - Sr. Joyce, Marlys, or Sr. Carol in Homer - is more of a pastor than the pastor himself, although this is technically impossible according to Canon 521, §1,"To become a pastor validly, one must be in the sacred order of the presbyterate".

Canon 529, §2 - A pastor is to recognize and promote the proper part which the lay members of the Christian faithful have in the mission of the Church, by fostering their associations for the purposes of religion. He is to cooperate with his own bishop and the presbyterate of the diocese, also working SO THAT THE FAITHFUL HAVE CONCERN FOR PAROCHIAL COMMUNION, CONSIDER THEMSELVES MEMBERS OF THE DIOCESE AND OF THE UNIVERSAL CHURCH, AND PARTICIPATE IN AND SUSTAIN EFFORTS TO PROMOTE THIS SAME COMMUNION. (emphasis mine)

Comments - The next time a parish council claims that they, "...don't want a Latin Mass or any of that stuff down here!", you might gently remind them that by dint of their membership in the Universal Church, they are obliged to 'have concern for parochial communion'. More below...

Canon 536, §2 - A PASTORAL COUNCIL POSSESSES A CONSULTATIVE VOTE ONLY and is governed by the norms established by the diocesan bishop.

Comments - Most people - both members and non-members of parish councils - know this already. It's just nice to see it in writing.

Canon 539 - When a parish becomes vacant or when a pastor is prevented from exercising his pastoral function in the parish by reason of captivity, exile or banishment, incapacity or ill health, or some other cause, the diocesan bishop is to designate as soon as possible A PAROCHIAL ADMINISTRATOR, THAT IS, A PRIEST WHO TAKES THE PLACE OF THE PASTOR according to the norm of can. 540.

Comments - At times, I think Sister Joyce and Sister Carol were called "Parish Administrators"; now they are "Parish Directors". This Canon is likely the reason why. Just a footnote.


  1. I would like to applaud the analysis of the Canons. One must realize always that we are dealing with a system so closed in upon itself, either exclusively here on the Peninsula and or in the broader Archdiocese that addressing these problems will take nothing less than notoriety outside the protective bubble. Many parishioners have tried addressing these things with our new priests, with our Bishop, even with Canon lawyers. The responses we get are we are trouble makers, (this from the diocesan level) The new priests tell us they have a mandate to "say Mass and offer the sacraments, but make no changes to what the nuns or administrators are doing". This gives one a sense of hoplessness. Parishioners go to church and feel like strangers in their own parish. The word oppression comes to mind in examining the long standing problem down on the Peninsula. The strength of the "closed doors" will need a greater force than our local ordinary to pry them open.
    The impact of the liberal feminist movement is seen very clearly on the Peninsula. The men keep their place while the feminist leaders keep everyone shut down. It is truly oppressive. One hopes that as the "old guard" retires and new blood is allowed to flow into the system, we might actually achieve a real communion. That is definitely not what we have now. Keep up the good work.
    Posted By: One in Exile

  2. I would like to comment on the issue of the rotating priests. This system has been ineffective from the very first. The priests traveled to the three parishes on the Peninsula in succession, staying one Sunday, and in Homer's case, Friday through Wed morning. The effect was a situation very similar to what was in place when there was no permanent priests. The exclusive case was Fr. Tero, who being alone and covering the entire Peninsula, still managed to visit, come to our homes for dinner, become friends with us, more like a Pastor of old. Our three priests, although always attempting to be effective as priests, are not familiar to us. Fr. Tony is more familiar than Fr. Joe and Fr. Andy. But there is little more than chit chat that takes place between us. Numerous parishioners have commented that they wanted to get to know the priests better, spend time with them, but when asked to get together, there is never time. At Church after Mass, there is the usual greetings and smiles, then the running away to meetings. (No peaceful time to just be a pastor to us.)
    One event that shocked many soon after our three new priests arrived was the announcement by Fr.Tony at Mass one Sunday that parishioners were not to come to the priests and ask questions. They were to go to the Parish Directors who would then tell the priests what parishioners needed. The impact was painful and reverberating. The abandonment felt by many of the parishioners was profound and yet there was to be no redress, until apparently, the Bishop stepped in and suggested there should be more contact between the priests and the parishioners. This situation seemed to be part and parcel with the desire to make sure the current structure, i.e. the parishes run by the parish councils and Directors, be reassured that their positions and authority would not be changed.
    Confusion remained as to what the new priests were here to accomplish.
    Another situation that occured and that was equally shocking was the power struggle that took place at Our Lady of the Angels soon after the arrival of our new priests. Fr. Tony offered to say Mass Monday through Friday at 9:00 am. This occured for several weeks until one Sunday at Soldotna, the Parish Director announced after Sunday Mass that the new schedule for daily mass at Kenai would be Tuesday through Friday. Fr. Tony, was was in the pews with the congregation, corrected her and said he would be saying it M-F. The Parish Administrator looked suprised yet did not refute this. However, that next week there was no Mass at Kenai on Monday and the schedule was and continues to be T-F.
    The stories of how much control is parlayed between the current parish administrators goes on and on. One parishioner has taken communion to a home bound women who has asked on numerous occasions to have a priest visit her. But the administrators tell her she will be put on a waiting list and so another caring parishioners brings her communion. Again, when Fr. Tero was here, this women had regular visits from him and in the past year and a half this same women has had only two visits from the current priests.
    There was a young man who died in the past year. When the grandmother attempted to talk to the priests about the funeral, she was told she would need to talk to the Parish Administrator of her parish. Another family in Homer sought the help of the priests to deal with a very sad family situation and the father wanted help bringing hope to the family. Yet the father was told there was no time for that. This person was very sad and felt abandoned once more.
    In the ensuing time since our new priests have come, there does not seem to be any improvement in communication between priests and parishioners. I do not believe it is the non-desire of the priests, but the power struggles that are ever present here on the Peninsula. The priests are muted, kept in their place by the (dare I say it) feminists who fear they have no valid place unless they are in charge and telling the men what they can and cannot do. Control is the issue of the day. I must continually remind myself that we are living through the breakdown of the church that took place with what Pope Benedict calls the rupture of continuity. It will take time for the Holy Spirit to reclaim the hearts of the people. So we offer our sacrafices for the Church and our healing.